Lamb Chops with Braised Chard & Mint

I am going to share a little secret with you. If you love lamb chops but are the kind of guy who is not very keen on fat, then you will probably love the very expensive cut of trimmed rack of lamb. You are probably looking at about £30 a kilo, and that is not cheap. However, check out your local Halal butcher. (Often found inside Arabic shops which have lots of fruit and veg outside. There are at least three in Morden.) They more than likely sell these fabulous little lamb chops, completely trimmed of all their fat. They might not look quite as professionally butchered as a French trimmed rack, but they are half the price and chuck them on the BBQ, they taste absolutely delicious, no one is going to care what they look like anyway.

Lamb Chops with Braised Chard & Mint

Serves 2

10 lamb chops (I allow about 5 chops per person)

For chard

1 bunch Swiss chard (1 lb)

1 large red onion, finely sliced

2 garlic clove, very finely chopped

Small bunch mint

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Zest from 1 lemon

Cut stems and center ribs from chard, discarding any tough portions, then cut stems and ribs crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Stack chard leaves and roll into cylinders. Cut cylinders crosswise to make 1-inch-wide strips. Wash and drain well. Cook the onion in olive oil, gently, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and chard stems and ribs, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until stems are just tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in chard leaves and water and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a minute more. Add the chard and season with salt and pepper and cook down until well wilted. Whilst the chard cooks, grill your seasoned chops. Add the mint and lemon to the chard and check for seasoning. Serve with the chops.

Home-made V8

I have been desperate to make my own tomato juice ever since I got a juicer so I was waiting to have a glut of tomatoes. Obviously I had to wait until winter was over to have any decent tomatoes at all, but then this week I seemed to have somehow collected three punnets. So without hesitation I chucked one punnet into my juicer. Absolutely nothing came out and when I peered inside, I seemed to have made little more than some tomato froth. Turns out you really have to cook the tomatoes to get the sort of juice I had in mind. There is a raw version but it is just not the same. So you simmer your tomatoes for about 25 minutes and push them through a sieve. No juicer required. However, if like me you wanted to use your juicer, there are all sorts of favours you can add to make your tomato juice a bit different. Mine ended up tasting a bit more like V8, but I didn’t mind, because I love the stuff. I added a little beetroot, which is great as it gives it a better colour, celery, parsley, spinach, watercress and a couple of carrots. Obviously salt, onion, pepper, sugar, Worcester sauce or tabasco can help add a kick, but that is up to you.

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Puy lentil and mushroom Bolognaise

As I said, I have been using up lentils this week, and what better way than this fabulous lentil Bolognaise. It is healthier, quicker, cheaper and makes so much less mess as there is no meat to brown off. You can use it just like Bolognaise too – in a lasagne, in a baked potato, on polenta or on pasta as I did. I really cannot rate it enough.

Puy lentil and mushroom Bolognaise

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 onions, finely chopped

300g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

250g puy lentils

150ml red wine

1 tablespoon tomato puree

800g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 litre vegetable stock (I make mine with kello stock cubes)

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried oregano

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the carrot, celery and onion for about 10 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and garlic, cooking until the mushrooms are cooked through, release their liquid and begin to fry. Add the tomato puree and fry for a minute or two. Add the red wine and reduce for a few minutes. Season well and add the puy lentils and the tinned tomatoes, stock and herbs and simmer for 25-35 minutes, until the lentils are cooked and your ragu is nice and thick (you may need to add extra stock/ boil away any excess depending how long it takes the lentils to soften). Check seasoning.

Onion Bhaajis

As I was making my Cauliflower Pakora this week, it got me thinking about Onion Bhaajis. A great recipe when you have a glut of onions. It makes a really nice quick and easy supper with some chutneys or raita and the kids love them.

Onion Bhaajis

3 onions, peeled and thinly sliced

Sunflower oil, for frying

For the batter

150g gram flour (chickpea flour)

½ teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

A good shake of cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

For the batter, put the gram flour, baking powder, ground spices and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine and get rid of any lumps. Slowly whisk in 175ml cold water, which should give you a smooth batter with a similar consistency to double cream. Add a little more water if necessary – different brands of gram flour will vary in how much they absorb.

Break up the onion slices into rings. Dip the onion in the batter, making sure they are all thoroughly coated, and scrunch them up slightly, into balls,

Heat about a 3cm depth of oil in a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to turn a cube of white bread light golden brown in 30–40 seconds, start cooking the bhaajis, a few at a time so you don’t crowd the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, until crisp and golden brown on the base, then turn over and cook for another minute or two.

Drain on kitchen paper, then serve piping hot with the raita for dipping.

Roast Cauliflower and Chorizo Rice

The combination of roast cauliflower, chorizo and rice is delicious, It doesn’t really matter what rice you use, although obviously the cooking method will change. You could use basmati and create a pilaf or Arborio rice for a risotto, but I chose paella rice as it has a clear connection with chorizo, whereas the others don’t.

Roast Cauliflower and Chorizo Rice

Serves 4

I large cauliflower, cut into florets

1-2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

Olive oil, preferably Spanish

2 onion, finely sliced

2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped

400g good quality chorizo, diced

2 chicken or vegetable stock cubes to make 750mls stock

1 pinch of Saffron

250g paella rice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toss the cauliflower florets in some olive oil, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and roast on a lined baking sheet in the oven at 180C for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Put a glug of oil into a large heavy bottomed shallow casserole or paella pan on a medium heat, add the onion and fry for around 10 minutes, stirring regularly until completely soft. Add the chorizo and fry to release the oil. Next add the garlic and fry for a minute more. Meanwhile dissolve the stock cubes in 750 of boiling water and add the saffron. Next add your rice to the onions with a good pinch of salt. Pour in the stock and let it bubble away gently, stirring from time to time to avoid sticking. Top up with more stock if it becomes dry and the rice is still raw. After 30 minutes, check the rice is tender and cook a little longer if needed. Season to perfection and serve straight away.

Chilli Con Carne with Roast Sweet Potato Chips

I have got obsessed about sweet potatoes, sour cream and sweet chilli sauce. It is more of a snack though, and not exactly a meal, so I decided to turn it into one.

Chilli Con Carne with Roast Sweet Potato Chips

Olive oil

1 large onion

1 red pepper or a few sweet baby peppers

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tsp spicy chipotle paste

1 tsp ground cumin

500g lean minced beef

400g can plum tomatoes

1 tsp dried oregano

410g can red kidney beans

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soured cream, to serve

Roast Sweet Potato Wedges

Prepare your vegetables. Chop 1 large onion into small dice. Cut the red pepper in half lengthways, remove stalk and seeds and then chop. Peel and finely chop 2 garlic cloves.

Put a heavy based saucepan on the hob over a medium heat and add some oil and the beef.. Add the oil and the onions and cook, stirring fairly frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft, squidgy and slightly translucent. Tip in the garlic, red pepper and cook for a further 5 minutes or so. Add the ground cumin and chipotle sauce. Give it a good stir, then leave it to cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and break up with a wooden spoon. Rinse out the tin with half a tin of water and add that too. Drain the beans and add too with the oregano. Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper. Simmer it gently. Bring the whole thing to the boil, give it a good stir and put a lid on the pan. Turn down the heat until it is gently bubbling and leave it for an hour or two. (At this stage, you can tip the whole lot in a slow-cooker). You should check on the pan occasionally to stir it and make sure the sauce doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan or isn’t drying out. If it is, add a couple of tablespoons of water and make sure that the heat really is low enough. After simmering gently, the saucy mince mixture should look thick, moist and juicy.

Taste a bit of the chilli and season. It will probably take a lot more seasoning than you think. Now replace the lid, turn off the heat and leave your chilli to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with soured cream and sweet potato wedges. Or why not try as a filling for a baked sweet potato!

Eggs PSB

Purple Sprouting and Hollandaise is a classic and very delicious combination. There is a variation “Maltaise” – Hollandaise with blood orange which is famously paired with asparagus or purple sprouting broccoli but personally I prefer it without the orange.

Hollandaise is typically used in the classic “Eggs Benedict”, which got me thinking of trying to add the purple sprouting broccoli to an English muffin, as they are known in America, and create a new brunch dish. I replaced the ham with crispy streaky bacon (another great combo with purple sprouting broccoli) but apart from that and the purple sprouting broccoli the rest is the typical poached egg, and napped in Hollandaise. But what to call it.  The classic French names usually have little clues in them of origin or ingredient. Hollandaise sauce must have its routes in Holland, Maltaise sauce, as oranges come from Malta, Eggs Florentine as Florence was famous for spinach and Eggs Benedict originate from a famous wall street broker with a hang-over at The Waldorf Hotel in New York. This is the best I could do.

Eggs PSB

Serves 2

For the Hollandaise sauce

1 small onion or shallot, very finely chopped

50mls white wine vinegar plus a splash for poaching the eggs

125g good quality butter, cut into cubes

2 free-range egg yolks

Sea salt

Squeeze of lemon

 

2 English muffins, split in half horizontally, toasted

Large handful of purple sprouting broccoli

6 rashers of good quality streaky bacon

4 very fresh free-range eggs

 

Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil.

Make the hollandaise: In a small pan, heat the onions, vinegar and a little water. Boil until the liquid has reduced to around a tablespoon (keep an eye on it, as the liquid will suddenly reduce very quickly). Take off the heat immediately and strain through a fine sieve. Reserve the liquid, discard the onion and leave to cool. Put the egg yolks in a large bowl (one that fits snugly over the pan of barely simmering water) and add the vinegar reduction.

Whisk the yolks vigorously until pale in colour and voluminous (this will take a good few minutes, so be patient and keep the heat really low to avoid over-cooking and scrambling the eggs).

Still whisking constantly, start adding the butter, drip by drip initially. Keep adding and whisking, so the mixture emulsifies and looks glossy; this will take about 5 minutes. Don’t add the butter too quickly, or the mixture will split. If it does split you can rescue it by putting another egg yolk in a clean bowl and gradually whisking it into the split mixture. If it has scrambled, unfortunately you won’t be able to save it.

Once the butter is all incorporated, add a good squeeze of lemon juice and add salt to taste. The hollandaise can be kept warm but not hot.

Trim the purple sprouting broccoli into nice tender stems. If the stems are too thick cut them in half lengthways.  Add to the pan of boiling salted water and cook for 3 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Add a dash of vinegar to the same water and watch it turn pink and at a gentle rolling boil, carefully crack in your eggs. Cook until your liking and remove with a slotted spoon onto some kitchen paper.

Meanwhile fry your bacon until crisp on both sides in a frying pan with a little veg oil. Drain on kitchen paper and cut in half so that they fit on the muffins.

Spilt the muffins and toast. Arrange the muffins halves on a plate, top with crispy slices on bacon, plenty of purple sprouting broccoli and  then place a poached egg on top of each and pour the Hollandaise sauce over the top. Serve straight away.

Teriyaki Stir-fry with Cashew Nuts

This is such a great use-up dish at the end of the week, when your fridge is still full of veg and you know your next veg box is coming. You can throw in whatever you like and haven’t even padded it out with noodle, it is just veg, veg and more veg and you can be sure you have got your 10 a day

Teriyaki Stir-fry with Cashew Nuts

Serves 2

Teriyaki sauce varies hugely. My favourite is Waitrose home-brand.

Large knob of fresh ginger

2 cloves of garlic

1-2 fresh red chillies

1 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

1 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced

Handful of purple sprouting broccoli, sliced finely

Head o Bok, Choi shredded

Few sticks of celery and its leaves, shredded

2 carrots, peeled and then peeled into ribbons

Sweet mixed peppers, sliced, seeds removed

Teriyaki (for gluten free a mixture of Mirin, gluten free soy and Chinese cooking rice wine)

Handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Chopped cashew nuts, toasted

Sea salt

Cut the chilli in half, remove the seeds and finely chop. Scrape the ginger with a teaspoon to remove the outer layer and grate. Peel the garlic and grate it. Heat a large wok or saucepan and add some sesame oil, the  garlic, chilli and ginger. Fry for a few minutes. Add all the rest of the vegetables and stir fry for 5 minutes or so. It is important to keep the veg moving all the time as the name stir fry implies. When the veg is well wilted, add the teriyaki to taste and a pinch of salt if necessary. Remove from the heat and add a little more sesame oil to taste. Add the freshly chopped coriander and chopped cashew nuts and stir well and serve straight away.

Cut the chilli in half, remove the seeds and finely chop. Scrape the ginger with a teaspoon to remove the outer layer and grate. Peel the garlic and grate it. Heat a large wok or saucepan and add some sesame oil, the  garlic, chilli and ginger. Fry for a few minutes. Add all the rest of the vegetables and stir fry for 5 minutes or so. It is important to keep the veg moving all the time as the name stir fry implies. When the veg is well wilted, add the teriyaki to taste and a pinch of salt if necessary. Remove from the heat and add a little more sesame oil to taste. Add the freshly chopped coriander and chopped cashew nuts and stir well and serve straight away.

Fennel & Cannellini Bean Gratin

This recipe is a sort of Cassoulet without the meat. It is surprising that it really is a meal in itself and that the fennel manages to replace the customary addition of bacon, duck and sausages so well. If, however you are the sort of person who just cannot go without meat, just serve up some sausages alongside. Other wish, a nice crisp salad will do.

Fennel & Cannellini Bean Gratin

1 lemon

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

2 fennel bulbs

400g tin cannellini beans

Olive oil

1 tin plum tomatoes

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp ground fennel

50g breadcrumbs

25g Parmesan

Zest and juice the lemon. Peel and slice the onion. Trim the fennel bulbs, removing any tough outer layers. Slice them in half, lengthways. Remove the tough root with a v-shaped cut and thinly slice. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and gently fry the onion and fennel for 10 minutes until starting to soften. Allow them to take on some colour but add a dash of water if they look like they might burn. While the fennel cooks, peel and finely chop 2 garlic cloves. Add the garlic to the pan of fennel. Cook gently for a further 2 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, rinse out the tin with a little water and add that two and break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add the ground fennel and oregano. Bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes on a low heat until the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you feel it needs it. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Tip the fennel and tomato mixture into a gratin dish. Mix the breadcrumbs with the cheese and the lemon zest. Cover the gratin with an even layer of the breadcrumb mix. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs have turned golden and the sauce is bubbling.

Pancakes Stuffed with Swiss Chard and Ricotta

I make my kids pancakes pretty much every day for breakfast. I make up a large batch of mix and keep it in the fridge so that I can make them in minutes in the morning before school. So I was a bit taken aback by the amount of fuss they made because I had forgotten pancake day! So, without any more delay here is a savoury recipe which will help you use up your veg box as well as, hopefully, keeping the kids quiet. This filling is based on the ravioli fillings that we used to make at The River Café. Luckily pancakes are a lot easier, less fiddly and quicker to make than Ravioli. You can use any leafy greens in place of the chard and if you want to re-heat them, then sprinkle the pancakes with parmesan and heat them through in the oven.

Pancakes Stuffed with Swiss Chard and Ricotta

½ pt milk

1 egg

4oz Flour

 

1 head Swiss Chard

1 onion

1 large clove garlic

Large knob of butter

Lemon zest

250g ricotta

Large handful of freshly grated parmesan

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put a pan of salted water on to boil.

Make pancakes. Add the whisked egg to the milk and gradually add to the flour in a large bowl. Use a folk to slowly incorporate the flour. When you have added half the milk, whisk the batter to remove any lumps, before adding the remaining milk.

Strip the leaves from the chard. Cut up the stalks quite finely. Chop the onion finely. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan and add the onion. Cook gently for about 10 minutes without any colour. Meanwhile cook the leaves in the boiling water for about 3 minutes. Remove and spread out on a clean tea towel. Add the stalks to the water and again cook for a few minutes. Drain. When the chard is cool enough to handle, use the tea towel to squeeze out any extra water. Roughly chop the chard. Add the chard stalks and the chard to the onion and fry gently for a few minutes. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before stirring in the ricotta, the parmesan and the lemon zest. Adjust seasoning to taste. Keep warm.

Cook the pancakes in a large non-stick frying pan. Add a small knob of butter each time.  Cook until golden brown each side. When your pancakes are cooked, fill them with your chard mixture and serve immediately. Any pancake batter left over can be kept in the fridge for a few days and used as you need it.